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To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will assess the extent to which the planning system accommodates diversification plans of farmers; and whether they will take action to allow more diversification.[HL1200]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): National planning policy allows diversification for business purposes that is consistent in scale and environmental impact with its rural location. We will also promote a Home on the Farm scheme to encourage farmers to convert existing building into housing.
We will publish and present to Parliament a simple and consolidated national planning framework covering all forms of development. We will make an announcement on how we propose to take forward the national planning framework and the implications for specific areas of planning policy.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many persons travelling in the United Kingdom have been searched using body scanners or have had their luggage screened at international airports in the United Kingdom in the last (a) three, (b) six, and (c) 12 months.[HL1365]
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many persons from ethnic minorities have been searched using body scanners or have had their luggage screened when travelling into the United Kingdom in the last (a) three, (b) six, and (c) 12 months. [HL1366]
Security (body) scanners have been operationally deployed in the UK since 1 February 2010 for the screening of departing passengers. In the subsequent five months to 1 July 2010, approximately 250,000 people have been screened by security scanners at UK airports. Passengers may be selected for security scanning on a random basis, or if they cause other detection systems to alarm.
The Government require that airports ensure that passengers selected for security scanning be afforded an opportunity to provide details of their age, gender, race, ethnic origin and religion or beliefs. Airports are collecting these data by a number of methods. We are
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We will consider this further alongside the responses to the public consultation on the use of security scanners, which closed on 19 July. All departing baggage is subjected to security screening at UK airports.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the bank levy to be imposed by the Government of the United States on banks operating there falls within the definition of a tax for the purposes of double taxation agreements between the United States and the United Kingdom; and whether they propose that the United Kingdom bank tax levy should be covered by such agreements.[HL1231]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The existing double taxation agreement between the US and the UK covers US federal income taxes and US federal excise taxes on insurance policies. It is unlikely to cover the proposed balance sheet levies in either the US or the UK. However, the Government appreciate the desirability of avoiding double taxation caused by the interaction of the different countries' levies and will discuss possible mechanisms to alleviate that double taxation with other countries that plan to introduce bank balance sheet levies.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the effect of using generic assumptions common to assets in all markets on the utility of the European Union bank stress tests. [HL1118]
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether HM Treasury, the Bank of England or the Financial Services Authority will review and approve data submitted by United Kingdom banks for the European Union bank stress tests; and whether HM Treasury, the Bank of England or the Financial Services Authority will review the results of the tests before they are published.[HL1119]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the pass rate for tier one capital and core tier one capital set by the Committee of European Banking Supervisors for their banking capital stress tests; and whether the Bank of England or the Financial Services Authority were consulted in setting those rates.[HL1309]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The EU-wide stress test has been expressly designed as an exercise in which commonly agreed scenarios and key assumptions have been applied to institutions across Europe.
The stress tests are being co-ordinated by the Committee of European Banking Supervisors (CEBS). This is composed of representatives from the banking supervisory authorities and central banks of the European Union, including the Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority (FSA). The FSA is applying the CEBS stress test to UK banks.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP), funded jointly by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, has committed for the current financial year the following amounts, based on project bids made by the respective Overseas Territories (OT):Anguilla: £102,883;British Antarctic Territory: £27,351;Bermuda: £114,800;British Indian Ocean Territory: £20,961;British Virgin Islands: £52,173;Cayman Islands: £61,224;Falkland Islands: £124,730;Montserrat: £56,500;Pitcairn Islands: £18,750;St Helena: £115,348;South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands: £74,687;Tristan da Cunha: £182,785;Turks and Caicos Islands: £122,914; andProjects in two or more Territories: £260,613.
"OTEP has established itself as a highly valued leader in supporting sustainable development in the OTs, particularly in conserving the OTs' rich biodiversity. It has been well run, is well received by both UK and OT stakeholders, and is committed to continuous improvement. There is considerable demand in the OTs for OTEP to continue".
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether HM Treasury informed Mr Geoffrey Dicks and Mr Graham Parker when they were appointed to the Budget Responsibility Committee on 8 June that Sir Alan Budd only intended to chair that committee for three months.[HL1191]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Geoffrey Dicks and Graham Parker were aware when they were appointed that Sir Alan Budd only intended to chair the interim Office for Budget Responsibility Committee for the time taken to produce the forecasts for the Emergency Budget and advise the Chancellor on arrangements for the permanent Office for Budget Responsibility.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the report Crimes against humanity in Western Burma: the situation of the Rohingyas by the Irish Centre for Human Rights, about Rohingyas in northern Arakan.[HL1323]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The report from the Irish Centre for Human Rights adds to our already deep concern about the situation faced by the Rohingya people in Northern Rakhine State. Our embassy in Burma monitors the situation as closely as possible, in consultation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, International Labour Organisation, and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights. The Rohingya are denied Burmese citizenship, and we continue to receive credible reports of severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, forced labour and other human rights abuses. We deplore the institutionalised persecution of the Rohingya highlighted by the report.
Lord Howell of Guildford: The coalition Government's policy towards Burma is consistent with the concept of Responsibility to Protect, which, while not creating any new rights or obligations under international law, underlines that all Governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens from crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide and ethnic cleansing. If they are unable or unwilling to do so, the international community should assist, using humanitarian, diplomatic and all other peaceful means at its disposal. As a last resort, the concept envisages the consideration of more coercive international intervention through the Security Council in accordance with the UN Charter.
We are deeply concerned at the widespread abuse of human rights in Burma, and particularly at the suffering of Burma's ethnic groups. We are committed to raising our concerns with Burma's neighbours and other international partners, in all relevant international fora, including the UN Security Council, and directly with the military Government in Burma. With such action we aim to highlight the situation in the country, rally international pressure on the regime, and thereby curtail further human rights abuses. The Government are also committed to helping Burma's long-suffering people through a significant programme of humanitarian aid that makes the UK amongst the largest bilateral donors.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the Governments of Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on the situation of the Rohingya people in Burma.[HL1326]
Lord Howell of Guildford: The Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Office Minister of State responsible for South East Asia have expressed the Government's concern over the human rights situation in Burma. My honourable friend the Minister of State responsible for South East Asia discussed the situation faced by ethnic groups in Burma with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers, including the Foreign Ministers of Thailand and Malaysia, at an EU/ASEAN meeting on 27 May 2010 in Madrid, and Burma is on the agenda for his forthcoming visit to South East Asia. My right honourable friend the Minister of State at the Department for International Development, Alan Duncan, discussed the Rohingya with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni on 14 July 2010 and senior FCO officials raised wider Burma human rights concerns with the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs in June 2010. We will continue to seek opportunities to raise the plight of Burma's ethnic groups, including the Rohingya, with neighbouring countries and other international partners likely to have influence on the military Government.
Lord Howell of Guildford: The Burmese Government do not share with the UK the specific information they hold on foreign investment, but our assessment is that there is negligible investment by British companies in Burma. Statistics from 2007 and 2008-the latest available-from the Office for National Statistics show no new foreign investment from the UK into Burma.
Lord Howell of Guildford: The EU Council Decision on Burma (formerly EU Common Position) was renewed for a further 12 months at the end of April 2010 with unanimous support. The European Commission is also party to the Council Decision and adheres to EU policy on Burma. EU activity on Burma is further co-ordinated through regular discussion in Asia-Oceania Working Group meetings in Brussels which involves all member states and the European Commission.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The Government are committed to simplifying and streamlining the public procurement process. We have ongoing work to look into ways to reduce bureaucracy, we have already asked government procurers to use standardised, simpler prequalification questionnaires; and we have published a procurement timeline tool to help shorten timescales.
To make it easier for businesses to identify public sector contracting opportunities, the Government are committed to publishing tender documents online and free of charge from September. From December, departments' prime contractors will be encouraged to advertise subcontracting opportunities on a single website.
The commitment to centralise government commodity procurement, set out in the Cabinet Office Structural Reform Plan, will also reduce duplication and bureaucracy, and will improve efficiency in government purchasing.
To ask Her Majesty's Government , with reference to the Care Quality Commission's consultation document Assessments of Quality 2010-11, whether they will ask the commission to undertake a special review of the quality of nutrition and hydration care delivered in care settings in England.[HL1179]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has consulted on its programme of special reviews and will be publishing the programme in due course. This programme of reviews included a proposed review on nutrition and hydration. The commission, as an independent body, will decide based on the responses to its consultation which reviews it undertakes.
Although the Secretary of State has the power to require a particular special review, it is not his intention to use this power unless there are particular matters of public concern that are not addressed by CQC's own review programme.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): There are no judicial protocols with Bangladesh or India. Her Majesty's Government continue to encourage more countries to ratify or accede to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. There are currently 82 contracting states to the convention. India is considering whether to accede.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The Government's coalition document Our Programme for Government makes clear our support for free nursery care for preschool children, and that we want it to be delivered by a diverse range of providers.
Childminders are an important group of providers and many families value the home-based care that childminders offer. The Department for Education is providing strategic funding of £1.4 million in 2010-11 to the National Childminding Association (NCMA), which represents home-based childcarers, to help develop and sustain high-quality childminding.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will discuss with the Government of India the report in the Sunday Times of 11 July on the alleged illegal employment of 50,000 children for companies who manufacture commodities for British companies and the employment of children for long hours and for low pay.[HL1234]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We do not intend to discuss the article in the Sunday Times report with the Indian Government. However, child rights remains a high priority in our work to promote equality and tackling discrimination in India. The Government engage on this issue with relevant authorities. We also regularly raise our concerns over human rights issues with the Government of India as part of the ongoing
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In addition, the Government strongly support the ethical trading initiative (ETI). We encourage UK businesses to sign up to the ETI to challenge poor labour standards around the world, including the worst forms of child labour, and drive practical measures to improve them.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what powers the Prime Minister has when names are submitted to him by the Church of England for appointment as a bishop or archbishop to reject both names and request further submissions; and whether any such powers have been exercised in the past 20 years. [HL1181]
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The previous Government changed the arrangements for senior church appointments in 2007. The church now provides only one name to the Prime Minister for the appointment of both diocesan bishops and suffragan bishops. The Prime Minister passes this name to Her Majesty the Queen.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many civil servants from each department are seconded to which trade unions; whether their salaries are paid by the Civil Service; and what are the costs involved.[HL1269]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): In selecting courts on which to consult the following conditions were considered: to ensure that communities have reasonable access to the courts; that people should not have to make excessively long or difficult journeys to attend court; to improve the utilisation
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An initial impact assessment has been produced for the consultations on proposals for provision of court services across the HMCS estate. The consultation papers and the initial impact assessment can be found on the Ministry of Justice website at: http://www.justice. gov.uk/consultations/consultations.htm.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): I refer the noble Lord to the reply given by my right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Kenneth Clarke) at Justice Oral Questions on 15 June 2010 [Official Report, Commons, col. 724].
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the accuracy of data published by the Office for National Statistics on (a) the United Kingdom economy in general, and (b) gross domestic product.[HL1377]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): HM Treasury provides annual feedback on the performance of the Office for National Statistics as part of its service level agreement on macroeconomic statistics. A summary of this feedback is published in the UK Statistics Authority's Annual Report and Resource Accounts. The annual report for 2008-09 is available at: http://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/about-the-authority/what-we-do/annual-report-and-accounts/index. html
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answers by Baroness Thornton on 19 January (WA 225) and Earl Howe on 8 July (WA 68-9), why the information held by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority on the use of eggs is necessarily limited if records are maintained
22 July 2010 : Column WA238
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has advised that it holds information on the number of eggs donated to research as part of the data it collects on patients' treatment cycles. The HFEA is not legally required to collect data on eggs used in research.
Baroness Verma: The Government are committed to tackling harmful age discrimination. Given the fast changing demographics as people live longer, it is even more important to ensure that older people are treated fairly when, for example, receiving healthcare, or in being able to access travel insurance.
The Government announced on 3 July that the first wave of implementation of the Equality Act starts in October. The Government are considering how the rest of the Act can be implemented in the best way for business.
Baroness Verma: In the light of the current spending review and of the review of non-departmental public bodies, Ministers have asked the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to suspend the competition to appoint a permanent chief executive until there is greater clarity about the size and functions of the EHRC later in the year.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what stance they will take on proposals to give the European Systemic Risk Board or the European Supervisory Authorities power to make decisions or give directions which affect the fiscal autonomy of member states. [HL1228]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government have been very clear that no decisions by the new European Supervisory Authorities should impinge on the fiscal responsibilities of the UK.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 6 July (WA 39), whether they intend to re-examine European Union legislation on the statute book to ensure it contains no "gold plating"; and, if so, whether they intend to retranspose any legislation. [HL1349]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The Government have committed to a "one in, one out" rule for new regulation. This requires Ministers who are bringing forward new regulations to identify suitable compensatory savings.
Government departments will undertake reviews of their current stock of regulation to identify regulatory savings as part of this process. European directives will be within the scope of these reviews, and consideration will be given to the level and methods of transposition. If less burdensome methods of complying with a directive are identified, suitable amendments to legislation will be made where appropriate.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Government is a member of Codex Alimentarius, which seeks to strengthen food safety systems around the world. The United Kingdom continues to work with other countries through Codex Alimentarius to develop risk-based international food standards that are underpinned by the best available evidence.
To ask Her Majesty's Government , further to the Written Answer by Lord Taylor of Holbeach on 22 June (WA 167), what percentages of requests for
22 July 2010 : Column WA240
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments aims to provide its advice to former Ministers within 15 working days of receiving a request. There are a number of factors that need to be considered before a decision is made on a former Minister's application, and complex cases can take longer to process than 15 working days.
|Year||% of requests where advice was provided within 15 working days|
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many government departments have acting permanent secretaries; and what action will be taken to recruit new permanent secretaries from the private sector and local authorities.[HL1201]
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Two government departments of the Home Civil Service currently have acting permanent secretaries. They are the Permanent Secretary of Communities and Local Government and the Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, which is a permanent secretary level post.
These are business-critical roles and are exempt from the Civil Service recruitment freeze. These posts will be filled by external competitions to attract the best possible candidates from the private and public sectors.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): There is no first class service on Eurostar. There has been one ministerial trip to Brussels by Eurostar by business class since 11 May 2010. This ticket class was booked as there was only a negligible price difference on that particular occasion between business and economy classes. The only other ministerial journey to Brussels by Eurostar since 11 May has been in economy class.
To ask Her Majesty's Government which countries the United Kingdom's Special Representative for International Trade and Investment visited in an official capacity in each financial year since 2001; which of those countries he visited more than once in any one year; in which visits a Minister also participated; and which Ministers so participated. [HL1193]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): In his role as the UK Special Representative for International Trade and Investment, and in agreement with and in support of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) objectives, HRH the Duke of York undertook 80 overseas visits taking in 48 countries between 2001 and July 2010.
HRH also undertakes visits for other government departments, primarily the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Details of these visits are not held within the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, and are not included in this list.
A list of countries visited by HRH the Duke of York in his role as the UK Special Representative for International Trade and Investment, in each financial year since 2001, in support of UKTI objectives.
However, the Care Quality Commission has consulted on its programme of special reviews and will be publishing the programme in due course. This programme of reviews included a proposed review on nutrition and hydration. The commission, as an independent body, will decide, based on the responses to its consultation, which reviews it undertakes.
HES data contain information on admissions for malnutrition or where malnutrition is significant to the treatment of the patient. The NHS Information Centre for health and social care liaises closely with these NHS organisations to encourage submission of complete and valid data and seeks to minimise inaccuracies. This brings about improvement over time.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they have taken to ensure that there is a minimum standard of knowledge for prescribing morphine required of doctors providing out-of-hours service. [HL1431]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The department issues the British National Formulary which is published jointly by the British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and provides guidance on prescribing controlled drugs, including morphine.
All general practitioners working for out-of-hours providers must be registered with the professional regulator, the General Medical Council (GMC), in order to practise in the United Kingdom. All doctors working in the UK are required by the GMC to keep their knowledge and skills up to date in order to remain on the GMC register. This includes being familiar with guidelines that affect their work.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Government recognise the need for an orderly transition from the current House of Lords to a reformed second Chamber which makes use of the expertise and knowledge among current Peers.
The Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform, chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister, will make proposals for a transitional period where existing Members and newly elected or appointed Members would work together.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The purpose of the Migration Impacts Fund was to alleviate the impacts of immigration on local public services, rather than to support migrants themselves.
At the same time, the Government have protected core local government spending, reduced ringfencing and ended costly central reporting requirements. These changes mean local authorities themselves will be able in future to decide how best to address the impacts of immigration on their areas.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what procedure was used by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in awarding grants to Independent Networks Co-operative Association on 17 December 2009; how many other applications were made for the grants; how they were advertised; when; by whom; and who selected the successful applicant.[HL1558]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): I have nothing further to add to previous Answers on this subject, provided at Hansard 9 June (col. WA 46-47), 10 June (col. WA 55), 15 June (col. WA 104), 15 June (col. WA 104), 15 June (col. WA 103-04), 15 June (col. WA 105), 15 June (col. WA 105), 15 June (col. WA 104), 15 June (col. WA 103), 15 June (col. WA 103), and 16 June (col. WA 119).
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will ask Her Majesty's High Commissioner in New Delhi to arrange for a member of his staff to attend the hearing on 3 August in the New Delhi High Court of the application by 62 members of the Mehdi Foundation International for protection against refoulement to Pakistan.[HL1450]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We are aware of reports about the case, but we have no plans to attend the hearing on 3 August 2010. This is a matter between the Indian and Pakistani Governments.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their interpretation of the forecast in Chart 5.13 of the Bank of England's May inflation report; and what use they have made of the Bank's forecast of future inflation when it has not taken the form of a bell- shape distribution curve.[HL1311]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Bank of England has operational responsibility for monetary policy. The contents of the inflation report are therefore a matter for the Bank.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We were made aware of one dual Iranian-British national detained in December 2009, who may still be detained. We are only able to provide consular assistance to dual nationals in the country of their other nationality if they request it and if the country of their other nationality agrees. In this case we have been asked by the next of kin not to provide consular assistance or to make representations on their behalf. We therefore cannot confirm if the individual remains in detention.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The operation of conditional fee agreements has been examined by Lord Justice Jackson in his recent report Review of Civil Litigation Costs (published 14 January 2010). This is a comprehensive report which makes a wide range of significant recommendations for reform to address high costs in the civil justice system in England and Wales, including those associated with conditional fee agreements. The Government are very grateful to Lord Justice Jackson for his report and we are urgently assessing the main proposals. We will announce the way forward on conditional fee agreements as soon as possible. The advertising of legal services is regulated by the relevant regulatory bodies
Both the operation of conditional fee agreements and the advertising of legal services are also being considered by Lord Young of Graffham as part of his current review of health and safety law and the compensation culture. The Government will carefully consider Lord Young's recommendations when he reports.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): The department produces a quarterly publication of national statistics entitled National Insurance Number Allocations to Adult Overseas Nationals Entering the UK on its website at: http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asdl/niall/nino allocation.asp.
The most recent data available are for registrations up to 31 December 2009. Data from 11 May will be contained in the publication for the quarter ending 30 June 2010, due for release in November, and subsequent quarterly publications.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what powers they have to intervene in relation to the safeguarding of the future of the Finsbury Health Centre, in the event that the Islington Primary Care Trust does not reach agreement with Islington Council's Health and Wellbeing Centre.[HL1348]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Government have pledged that, in future, all service changes must be led by clinicians and patients, not be driven from the top down. It is the responsibility of local National Health Service organisations to provide safe, accessible
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The General Medical Council (GMC), as the competent authority for medical training in the United Kingdom, is the custodian of quality standards in medical education and practice and consequently is responsible for ensuring that doctors are equipped to deal with the problems they will encounter in practice, including care of the dying. The GMC is an independent professional body.
The GMC's Undergraduate, Postgraduate and Continued Practice Boards have the general function of promoting high standards of medical education and co-ordinating all stages of medical education to ensure that students and newly qualified doctors are equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitudes essential for professional practice.
The GMC has statutory responsibility to determine the extent and knowledge and skill required for the granting of primary medical qualifications in the UK. Its recommendations on undergraduate medical education are contained in Tomorrow's Doctors (updated version published September 2009) which:provides the framework that UK medical schools use to design detailed curricula and schemes of assessment; andsets out the standards that the GMC uses to judge the quality of undergraduate teaching and assessments at individual medical schools.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they are making to the Government of North Korea about the well-being of Aijalon Mahli Gomes and about securing his early release from prison.[HL1384]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We are aware of Mr Gomes's case. The Swedish embassy in Pyongyang is the consular protecting power for US nationals in North Korea and is handling Mr Gomes's case.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what bonuses are available to staff of the Northern Ireland Office; and what proposals they have to reduce or remove such payments following the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland taking a cut of 5 per cent in his salary.[HL995]
Lord Shutt of Greetland: The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) operates non-consolidated performance payments to senior civil servants and staff below senior Civil Service, in line with Cabinet Office and HM Treasury guidance respectively, to reward exceptional performance across the reporting year. The Cabinet Office has frozen the bonus pot for 2009-10 and has advised that it will issue further guidance in relation to payments in respect of performance year 2010-11. At present there are no plans to reduce or remove such payments.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the average Civil Service pension; what is the average length of service on which it is based; and how many people are in receipt of pensions (a) below and (b) above that average.[HL1221]
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Based on data relating to the 2008-09 financial year, the average pension payable to former civil servants and their dependants is £5,900 pa. The number of pensioners and total pensions in payment can be found in the Resource Accounts for Cabinet Office: Civil Superannuation. Copies of the resource accounts for the years up to and including 2008-09 are in the Library. Information on average length of service is not available centrally. An estimated 62 per cent of the pensioners are in receipt of pensions below the average and 38 per cent are in receipt of pensions above the average.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Taylor of Holbeach on 13 July (WA 125), whether the value of employer contributions paid into the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme in the past five years are in the Resource Accounts for Cabinet Office: Civil Superannuation.[HL1424]
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Yes. Employer contributions are shown in Note 9, Pension contributions receivable, in the Resource Accounts for Cabinet Office: Civil Superannuation for the years 2005-06 to 2008-09, and in Note 5 for the Accounts for 2004-05.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The coalition Government are committed to a radical reform of the planning system to give neighbourhoods far more ability to determine the shape of the places in which their inhabitants live.
We have already started implementing this by scrapping regional strategies and their centrally imposed building targets, scrapping housing density targets, reclassifying back gardens as not brownfield land, and abolishing the unaccountable Infrastructure Planning Commission.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) have published their forecast for RPI and CPI inflation in the fourth quarter of each year up to 2015 in Annex C of the Budget document. The relevant part of Table C2 is reproduced below.
|Forecast (Percentage change on a year earlier)|
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the answer by Lord McNally on 9 June (Official Report, col. 643), how they have assessed the extent of public support or opposition to the proposed grant of votes to persons serving prison sentences. [HL1297]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Government have made no formal assessment of the extent of public support or opposition to any proposals to grant votes to persons serving prison sentences. The Government are considering afresh the best way forward on the issue of prisoner voting rights.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The independent Commissioner for Public Appointments requires all appointments to posts within her remit to be made on merit following an open and transparent selection process. Except for a few bodies where a specific balance is required, political activity plays no part in the appointment process.
Baroness Verma: The Government do not hold this information. The public bodies listed in Schedule 1A to the Race Relations Act 1976 are subject to the general statutory duty in Section 71(1) of the Race Relations Act 1976 (as amended) to have due regard to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups.
The Race Relations Act 1976 (Statutory Duties) Order 2001 sets out specific duties to which some of these public bodies are subject for the purpose of ensuring their better performance of the general statutory duty.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the progress made by public bodies in meeting the duty in Section 71(1)(b) of the Race Relations Act 1976, as inserted by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.[HL1472]
Baroness Verma: No formal government assessment has been carried out of the progress made by public bodies in meeting the duty in Section 71(1)(b) of the Race Relations Act 1976 (as amended) to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups.
(The commission has over the years carried out assessments of the extent to which organisations meet the public sector equality duties in the development and implementation of policies and practices, or whether or not the duties have been breached. Where organisations are found wanting, the commission will assist them in working to alter their practices in order to achieve better compliance).
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Like the present Government, the previous Government did not fund religion or religious activity, and no funds were allocated to any religion during the last financial year. A wide and diverse range of programmes was run by various departments which affected different faith communities, but a comprehensive list of these is not available and could only be compiled at disproportionate cost.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): We remain concerned about the impact that exposure to second-hand smoke has on the health of children, and will continue to encourage people to make their homes and private cars smoke free. We are currently considering how best to tackle this issue in the context of our focus on public health and our priorities given the challenges facing public sector finances.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have made, or intend to make, representations to the Government of Syria about the arrest of the novelist Raghdah Sa'id Hassan, being held by the political branch in the city of Tartus.[HL895]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government regularly make representations to Syrian Government Ministers and senior officials regarding human rights issues. As my noble friend may be aware, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued public statements on 25 June 2010 deeply regretting the sentencing of human rights defender Muhannad al Hassani, and on 6 July 2010 deploring the sentencing of human rights defender Haitham al Maleh. We are also in contact with EU and US colleagues over what joint action we can take.
My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Alistair Burt) raised the general issue of human rights with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Muallem on 11 July 2010 during his visit to Damascus.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs employ a range of models to help inform forecast judgments on the dynamic effects of tax changes. Models are regularly updated in line with new policy or economic developments.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have discussed, or intend to discuss, with the Government of Turkey the latter's bar on women applying for judicial positions in the higher courts. [HL1361]
To ask Her Majesty's Government how the community-led voluntary sector will provide support, services and facilities to meet the needs of deprived local communities as part of the programme set out in Building the Big Society.[HL1246]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The voluntary and community sector has an important role to play in helping people to create the big society in their neighbourhood, by providing local services, running local facilities and helping people to help themselves.
To ask Her Majesty's Government when they will complete their assessment of arm's-length bodies that operate in the criminal justice system, including the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales; and what account they are taking of Safeguarding the Future: a review of the Youth Justice Board's Governance and Operating Arrangements, published in March, in considering the future role of the Board.[HL1272]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): In line with other government departments, MoJ is reviewing all of its arm's-length bodies. This review process includes the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, and Ministers will be considering options over the coming months. As part of this process we will consider all information relevant to each individual arm's-length body. For the Youth Justice Board, this will include the Safeguarding the Future report.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many custodial places for under-18-year-olds have been decommissioned by the Youth Justice Board in the last two years; what is the total saving made from the decommissioning of custodial places; and what plans there are to decommission further places. [HL1273]
Lord McNally: Between August 2008 and July 2010, the net total of custodial places which the Youth Justice Board (YJB) decommissioned was 728, realising net annual savings of approximately £34.3 million.
The YJB continually monitors demand for places in the under-18 secure estate and reviews its plans regularly to ensure that there is sufficient, but not excessive, capacity in the system to accommodate young people safely. At current occupancy levels there remains a degree of surplus capacity and the YJB is considering what scope there may be to decommission further places.
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